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Environment & SDGs mainstreamed in the 2020 Country Reports of the European Semester

On 26th of February the European Commission published the 2020 Country Reports in the framework of the European Semester process, which guide Member States by fostering investment, structural reforms, and responsible fiscal policies. Country Reports take stock of the general economic and social trends and assess the progress made by each EU country in addressing the issues identified in the previous year’s EU Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs). This includes recommendations for structural reforms on supporting women on the labour market, boosting care services (long-term care, early childhood education and care), support to persons with disabilities, deinstitutionalisation of the social/health sector, and more.

The main EU elements and trends are summarised in the Commission Communication accompanying the Country reports, which this year stresses the European Green Deal’s four dimensions (environmental sustainability, productivity gains, fairness and macroeconomic stability) to achieve sustainable growth and to fulfil the ambition of becoming the first climate neutral continent by 2050.

To achieve this, the European Semester has integrated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in its objectives and now monitors environmental sustainability, with dedicated sections and annexes in each Country Report. The Communication also anticipates some debates that will happen in the months and years to come: on the economic governance framework of the EU, the future establishment of the Budgetary Instrument for Convergence and Competitiveness and the Convergence and Reform Instrument, and a new rule of law mechanism, with annual reporting aimed at strengthening the rule of law culture.

The Communication concludes with an appendix with an overview of the attainment of the 2020 targets of sustainable, smart and inclusive growth.

Despite progress, employment, investment in Research & Development, energy efficiency, and poverty targets are unlikely to be met, and only the following sub-targets will probably be reached:

  • reducing greenhouses gas emission by 20% of the 1990 levels,
  • increasing the share of renewable energy to 20% of final energy consumption,
  • reducing the school drop-out to less than 10%,
  • increasing to 40% the share of 30-34 years old citizens having completed tertiary education.

Disability issues emerged more strongly in this cycle of Country Reports, with a lot of information on disability for some countries, and minimal focus in some others. Disability issues are most likely presented in relation to high unemployment, risk of poverty, educational attainment, and care (mostly about long-term care and about the transition from institutional to community-based care). The European Disability Forum has produced a summary of what the Country Reports of each Member State have to say about Disability, that you can find here.

Relevant information can be found also on early child education and care (ECEC). Its availability and affordability are related to the rate of women participation in the labour market and with their part-time work uptake. Child poverty is also analysed, and often associated with the parents’ status. Qualification levels and family background are signalled as determinants of poverty risks, with strong vulnerabilities for migrant families (in particular from non-EU countries), large families and single-parent’s families. A number of measures are suggested to tackle this, including investment in skills, affordable full-time childcare and all-day schools.

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